Would “Gluten-Free” Help You?

Plenty of people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, but before you decide if it’s the right choice for you, consider the different gluten and wheat-related allergies and intolerances.

wheat allergy

Wheat allergies and celiac disease are often used interchangeably. However, the two ailments are different. Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in wheat. One of those proteins is gluten, but you may also be allergic to other proteins found in wheat including albumin, globulin, and gliadin.

The following are common symptoms of wheat allergy:

  • Swelling and itching of the mouth and throat
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Runny or stuffed-up nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Asthma
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Celiac disease (often called gluten intolerance) is different than wheat allergy. Rather than being an allergic reaction, it is an autoimmune disorder caused by gluten. When people who suffer from celiac disease eat food with gluten, their body unleashes an immune response that damages the small, hair-like villi that line the intestines. When the villi are compromised, so too is the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Celiac disease affects roughly one person per 100, and that figure appears to be rising. People with celiac disease suffer from varied symptoms which includes the following:

  • Abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, weight loss
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (blistering skin)
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Muscle cramps, joint and bone pain
  • Seizures
  • Mouth sores
  • Irregular menstruation

If you suspect you have wheat allergies, see an allergist. Sublingual immunotherapy administered through under-the-tongue drops has been shown to be effective in desensitizing the body to wheat allergens. For celiac disease, start with your primary care physician for testing and diagnosis and guidance in adopting a gluten-free diet.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.